Archive for August 26th, 2008

Artmedia 1-1 Juventus – Champions League Says “Welcome Back Old Lady!” (UCL Preliminary Round)

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Artmedia 1-1 Juventus. Two years after the dark clouds of Calciopoli and Serie B tainted their glorious European history, the Bianconeri are back into the club elite of the world, ready once again to contend the “Cup with the big ears”. Or in other words “Champions League, here we come” might be saying Claudio Ranieri’s boys, after tonight’s preliminary round return leg in Bratislava, Slovakia (merely a formality, after the 4-0 victory obtained in Turin two weeks prior).

The biggest suspense for Juventus will now be coming from the drawing lots of UEFA headquarters, where their opponents for the Group Stage round will be revealed Thursday. The Bianconeri are currently third seed, but depending on Wednesday’s results may be upgraded to the second seed group. Until then, Ranieri can enjoy the positive notes gleaned from Tuesday night’s match.

And speaking of positive notes, here they are.  

  1. Amauri. The ex-Palermo striker scored one, and gave an impressive display on aerial balls: his jumping abilities permitted him to virtually get to every header first, and while David Trezeguet still remains the likely starting striker (the fact that Ranieri rested him tonight -alongside Del Piero- strongly suggests he was thinking ahead to the Serie A season opener vs. Fiorentina), the Italian-Brazilian makes for a perfect super-sub on fire.
  2. Marchisio. With Cristiano Zanetti likely still sidelined for a while (injury problems), the young U-21 midifielder is the elected alternative of choice to Poulsen and Sissoko. Tonight, he demonstrated quality and personality, and may very well be the long-awaited midfield recruit Juventus was searching for. Sure he’s no Aquilani or Xabi Alonso, but he’s solid, reads the game well, and knows how to time his runs. With Sissoko suspended, expect to see him get the start on Sunday against Fiorentina.
  3. The usual suspects: Camoranesi, Nedved, and Buffon. No introductions needed really. With Camo and Pavel still the irreplaceable play-creating dynamos, and Gigi the always-ready-to-pounce nº1 (even in matches like this one), Ranieri will not be losing sleep any time soon.
  4. Mellberg & Legrottaglie. With Giorgio Chiellini out for a month, these two become the de-facto starters in the center backline. With limited playing time together it’s still pretty early to make an assessment, but one word comes to mind so far: SOLIDITY.

Getting back to the game itself, the first half practically lasted till minute 25, when Juventus tied the game. Yeah, because Artmedia had actually managed to take the lead in this one, and it was by no means a lucky goal: in minute 13, captain Kozak had delivered a perfect cross to the center, and while Legrottaglie and Mellberg were having tea Branislav Fodrek had armed a spectacular bicycle kick, leaving Buffon to pick up the ball from the net. 1-0 Artmedia.

Fortunately for Juve, 10 minutes later a great cross from Pavel Nedved (permitted by Molinaro’s great off-the-ball left-wing run) found the noggin of Amauri, whose powerful header slammed the bottom part of the crossbar before crossing the line. 1-1, and game over for the Slovaks (who now had to score another 5 goals to qualify).

Ya, I say game over because essentially that was the last goal of the game, despite the many chances obtained by the visiting team in the first (Nedved, Amauri -post- and Iaquinta’s efforts come to mind) or the second half (Nedved, Amauri, Marchisio). Despite clearly suffering the Bianconeri’s ball possession, Artmedia themselves got a late chance for the prestige win (an 88th minute on-the-run shot by Halenar, on which Gigi had the chance to display his superb reflexes), however the scoreline remained unchanged.

There was time to see Sissoko and Giovinco come on for Nedved and Camoranesi, but the game had become a boring excuse for a kickabout at this point, and even the young “Formica Atomica” was being a bit imprecise with his passes. No matter. The biggest news of the day of course, was that Juve were back in the UEFA Champions League. Not just the preliminary round. For real this time.


FC Artmedia Petržalka ARTMEDIA- JUVENTUS
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 13’ Fodrek (A), 25’ Amauri (J).
ARTMEDIA BRATISLAVIA (4-2-3-1): Kamenar – Cisovsky, Salata, Farkas, Burak – Anderson (83’ Halenar), Velicky – Obzera (65’ Piroska), Kozak, Fodrek – Pospech (80’ Cleber). (bench: Hyll, Mraz, Hasek, Oravec). Coach: Weiss.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Legrottaglie (83’ Ariaudo), Mellberg, Molinaro – Camoranesi (70’ Sissoko), Poulsen, Marchisio, Nedved (70’ Giovinco) – Amauri, Iaquinta. (bench: Manninger, Salihamidzic, Del Piero, Trezeguet). Coach: Ranieri.


The New Face of Inter Milan (Gazzetta)

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

In today’s Gazzetta dello Sport, there’s a great article by Antonino Morici that makes a preliminary analysis on José’s Inter, at least based on their first-competitive-match performance in Sunday’s Supercoppa.

It’s still early for season assessments, but given that Gazzetta are generally experts in all things Inter and AC Milan, this one’s a pretty good read:

Gazzetta dello Sport website logo

MILAN, 25 August 2008 – It’s very tempting to give in to the charisma of a boss like Mourinho. Unlike his stints in Portugal and England, José continues to have everyone on his side and deservedly so, because pre-season fixtures and the first “real” match of the year (against an opponent well within Inters’s calibre) have proven him right so far. Even if we are still on the starting blocks, and the competition (beginning with Roma) is very tough, the Italian Super Cup offered the possibility to assess how the “Special One” has been able to get under the skin of Inter Milan, a team that before his term had won 2 league titles, 2 Italian Cups and 2 Super Cups in three years’ time.

MENTALITY - In four years of Roberto Mancini, only in very few occasions did we ever see 3 attacking players on the pitch at the same time. Apart from differences in the line-up however, the main discrepancy seems to be philosophical: Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to be the main reference point, but unlike before when Inter based their strength on physical superiority, eagerly searching for depth with two attackers or trying a vertical play with a trequartista (Stankovic, Jiménez or Figo), the Nerazzurri have now found their centre of gravity on the wings, continuously changing fronts and going deep with their “ball on the ground” style. Against Roma for instance, Inter paid particular attention to seemingly trivial play situations: for example, Figo (not exactly a rookie) would rush along the wing to hinder Riise’s powerful throw-in, giving the impression this was part of a perfectly thought-out plan.

INTENSITY – During the first half, the pace and quality of the nerazzurri were impressive. “We had decided to put pressure on Roma in their first phase (i.e. the start-up) because we knew that it was one of their main strengths” said Mourinho yesterday evening. In fact, Spalletti got very little out of his wingers, who were limited to stay “low” thanks to Figo and especially Mancini (who more than once kept close guard on Cassetti, all the way down to the end line). In the center, two midfield dams: the first formed by Sulley Muntari and Javier Zanetti, the other by Dejan Stankovic (reborn in the role of “back” playmaker in front of the defence, and very accurate with his passes). With the spaces closed, Inter could highlight the individual skills of their players: the right-wing line (Maicon-Figo) worked very efficiently with Ibrahimovic (creating three scoring chances in the first 30 mins), much to the delight of the ex-Barcelona and Real Madrid player, finally back to his natural winger position.

BALOTELLI – Finally, extra time simply highlighted what can be expected of someone like Balotelli over the next few years. At 18 years of age and with a serious possibility of playing many matches in José’s attacking trio, Mario has shown to be fully deserving of the trust placed into him by Mourinho, exhibiting quality with free-kicks, moving passes through the lines (which led to the 2-1 goal), the personality shown when facing opponents like Mexès and Juan, or his cool finishing inside the box. We get the strong feeling we are about to see a real phenomenon in action, one who (assuming he resists the instinct of giving in to nerves) might make his Azzurro dream come true much earlier than anticipated.